FCC sets auction date for in-flight wireless

The FCC set a May 10 date to auction 800 MHz air-to-ground licenses--a hot prospect since airline passengers represent a huge untapped revenue potential for the wireless industry. More than 1 billion passengers traveled on aircraft in 2005 worldwide. Verizon Airfone quickly announced it would be ready to offer in-flight Internet access by 2007 if it wins a license. Verizon already has a temporary license. The company has been demonstrating a CDMA system to commercial airlines by conducting flight tests that have achieved ground-to-air data speeds of 2.4 Mbps.

Boulder, CO-based Aircell has also demonstrated in-flight broadband supporting CDMA, GSM, WiFi and wVoIP devices. Aircell qualifies to receive a 25 percent small-business bidding credit. We'll also see interest from Boeing, which is already working on WiFi initiatives, and likely other operators such as Sprint Nextel and Cingular Wireless.

For more about in-flight wireless:
- read this press release from the FCC
- and check out this press release from Verizon